Words by David C. Obenour
Listening to the debut solo EP from Milo Greene’s Marlana, the personal journey she was on throughout its genesis is not immediately apparent. Seamlessly taking from a number of soulful and pop influences, At Least I Tried plays like a soundtrack to a night out and then night in.
But the demands of recording, touring and navigating the music industry, while trying to balance a personal life, had left her with a need to start over. Holed up in her family’s house in the mountains, she wrestled with these emotions and infused them into a new collection of songs. Whether you’re intently listening to her words or just grooving along, each play reveals a deeper appreciation.
Off Shelf: Given the state of everything, how are you doing these days?
Marlana: Lots of ups and downs right now. It seems like on a daily basis I go through every emotion that exists. This is pretty normal for me, but lately these fluctuations are extra outrageous. I have to go minute by minute to be completely honest.
OS: When you went home to be with your parents, what got you interested in writing music again?
M: I guess I wanted to see if I could still do it. Every song always feels like it’s the last one… like I’ll never be able to do it again.
OS: Was writing a way for you to escape from the realities you were dealing with or more of a way to confront them? Was anything harder or easier for you than it had been before?
M: I’m sure subconsciously it was healing for me, but I usually write to feel accomplished and provide meaning and purpose in my life. There are moments when it feels easy and moments when it feels hard. It’s the inconsistencies of creativity that drive me mad. It’s very unpredictable and I’m a control freak so it makes it extra challenging. Getting out of my own head is the hardest part.
OS: When you were writing, did you know you wanted these to be songs for a solo release? What differentiated them for you from your role in Milo Greene?
M: I’m pretty sure at the time I knew I was writing for myself. I wasn’t really second guessing anything, just trying to see if I could write something I liked. I question everything when writing for the band.
OS: Was there a freedom in releasing these as a solo work? Did that take off any pressures or allow you to explore anything you might not else have felt able to?
M: There was definitely a sense of freedom knowing I could write whatever I wanted lyrically and in whatever style. That took some pressure off creatively for sure, but the pressure I put on myself to make something I think is great was still omnipresent. I think I suck most days.
OS: Having gone through everything you did, do you think that has evolved how you look at creating and performing music?
M: No. I feel like I know less and less about how to do this every year. [laughs]
OS: You were dealing with a lot of personal heavy issues when you wrote a lot of this material, I’m thinking particularly of the song “I’m Good” – I wondered if you hear the music any differently in light of the heavy national issues of quarantine and protests?
M: Oh for sure. I relate to that song on another level now which is so bizarre.
OS: Is there any way that you hope listeners will engage with the new album? Any message you hope will resonate from it?
M: I hope they listen to the EP all the way through at one time… with headphones in the dark, maybe drunk or high or both, or on a long walk to nowhere or a long solo drive. Mostly, I hope people just feel something when they listen. If they connect or relate with it, I hope they share it with someone else. I hope they feel like they got to know me a little.
OS: I saw Milo Greene is donating the entirety of merchandise proceeds to Color of Change for all of 2020. Do you feel encouraged by and large how the music community seems to be responding to this moment?
M: Artists are typically progressive people. If they weren’t showing up right now I’d be very confused. It’s encouraging but also daunting because it feels like it’s going to take a long time before changes are made, and for the effects of those changes to be seen.
OS: What do you see as the role of generically speaking “pop music” in a moment like this? Both as a whole and for you personally.
M: I listen to pop music to check out, but a lot of people use it to check in and I think both are extremely valuable. A single song can be a source of education to one person while simultaneously being a source of meditation to another. The role of pop music is limitless. It’s power and influence is tenacious and that shit is just wild!